This North of England-based school offers an independent Catholic education with a choice of IB or A Levels at sixth form, outstanding facilities, and an extraordinary collection of historical and literary artefacts.
In 2020, Stonyhurst celebrated 20 years of full co-education, and there are currently 760 boys and girls aged between three and 18 years; there are 480 students in Stonyhurst College plus 280 pupils at in the Prep School, St Mary’s Hall, which both share the same campus. There’s a mix of local day students and mainly international boarders coming from China, Korea, Mexico, North America, Africa and throughout mainland Europe, and there’s been a recent increase in European pupils who come to Stonyhurst for the IBDP.
Founded in 1593, this is the oldest Jesuit school in the world; there are 850 Jesuit schools worldwide, 11 of which are in the UK. While Stonyhurst is open to children of all faiths, 60% of students are from Catholic families – and the Catholic faith is evident in all areas of school life. Jesuit values underpin everything the school does, learning is Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God), and students are encouraged just as much spiritually and emotionally as they are academically. As a member of the Global Network of Jesuit Schools, Stonyhurst has student exchange programmes in place with Jesuit schools in Uruguay, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Headmaster John Browne, who was previously head at Westminster Cathedral Choir School and St. Aloysius’ College, Glasgow, arrived at the school in 2016 with a goal to “develop Stonyhurst College as a beacon of Jesuit education”. He's very much 'seen' within the school and, to help build positive relationships with his students, Browne has lunch with five different students daily which he refers to as his “essential five a day”.
The motto here is ‘Quant je puis’ (As much as I can), and this principle comes across in all aspects of the school; there’s even a popular pudding name after it! Students are high achieving (the school’s IB score ranges from 34-36 in the past four years, and well over half of students achieve A*-B in A Levels). Its rugby, cricket and tennis teams, in particular, perform well at county, regional and academy level – and the school has produced 16 international rugby players. The school also plays an active role in the local community, and student-led projects have included the incredible sponsorship a Syrian refugee family to live in the area.
Here is a school that embraces its heritage with huge pride. The most unique feature of the school is its access to the extraordinary Stonyhurst Collections, which includes a museum, archives and three historic libraries with religious relics, works of art and artefacts gathered from around the globe.
Teachers have access to one of the oldest surviving museum collections in the world including a Thorn from the Crown of Thorns, fossils, prehistoric tools, prayer books belonging to Mary Queen of Scots, and an Egyptian mummy. There are original paintings by Rembrandt, Titian and Turner openly displayed around the campus. Students can turn the pages of one of Shakespeare’s First Folios and other rare, early printed books including first editions by Charles Dickens and C S Lewis. And there’s a chance to stargaze in the UK’s oldest working school observatory.
Housed in the grand Victorian wing of the school’s remarkable campus, this collection is incorporated into the Stonyhurst education; what an incredible and rare opportunity to learn about scientists, travellers, archaeologists, antiquarians, and authors – and a a parent of any student here should expect it to be taken full advantage of.
Like so many of the UK’s oldest independent schools, Stonyhurst has some unusual traditions that have stood the test of time; for example, Year 13 cricketers challenge the students in Years 5 & 6 to a game of cricket every year – wearing fancy dress! Unlike many UK independent schools, Stonyhurst is organised horizontally by year groups (known as Playrooms, which comes from the emphasis placed on drama in Jesuit education) rather than vertically by houses, and each Playroom has a Playroom Master.
Despite its roots in the past, Stonyhurst is also an outward-looking school. In 2020, it launched the Stonyhurst Foundation to increase the number of bursaries offered to students; around 30% of Stonyhurst College students currently receive fee assistance. Looking overseas, it will open a campus in Malaysia in September 2022 (Stonyhurst International School, Penang). And during the periods of lockdown in the UK, the school launched the Stonyhurst Anywhere online learning platform with a blend of live academic lessons, pastoral sessions, tutorials, meetings, talks, resources and tasks.
The school was rated Excellent in its most recent ISI Integrated Inspection (2016).
Stonyhurst’s Prep students are well-prepared for an education at Stonyhurst College with a curriculum that blends the National Curriculum for England and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). From Year 9, students follow a traditional, rigorous academic curriculum that includes GCSEs through to a choice of A Levels, the IBDP or the IBCP in the Sixth Form.
In Years 10-11, students’ study for their GCSEs. They continue with a core of English, maths, religious studies, at least one language and one science, and four further options from French, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, music, art, information technology and PE.
Students joining Stonyhurst in Year 11 can follow a one-year Pre-IB course, which not only integrates non-UK pupils into the life of the College but also prepares them for the IBDP with its breadth of study across a range of subject areas.
The minimum entry requirement for Sixth Form (Poetry and Rhetoric, Years 12 and 13) is five B grades at GCSE or equivalent; this is higher for sciences, languages and mathematics.
Students opting for the more specialist A Level route have around 18 options, ranging from mathematics and economics to photography and drama. Students typically choose three or four A Levels, as well as the Extended Project Qualification to complement their A Level studies.
Stonyhurst has been running the IB Diploma Programme since 2013. Around one third of the Sixth Form take the IBDP and many complete the bilingual diploma, which reflects the high number of international students taking the IB pathway. Alternatively, students can take the IBCP with either a sport or business specialism. This option is ideal for any student interested in pursuing a more hands on, career-related approach to education in Sixth Form.
The school encourages plenty of integration between IB and A Level students through co-curricular activities, sports, boarding and the compulsory Theology General class.
At a school with such strong literary collections, it’s hardly surprising to find a thriving arts department. Students can study the creative arts at GCSE, A Level and IB, with subjects including drama, music, fine art, art, craft & design, photography, and visual arts. All students in the Lower Grammar (Year 9) learn to play at least one instrument. There are also many opportunities to perform in big bands, choirs, and orchestras, as well as on stage and in art exhibitions. Full house productions in recent years have been as varied as Fame, Romeo and Juliet and Sweeney Todd.
Facilities include a professional theatre, music practice rooms, dance studio, art and design studios, and a recording studio.
Students at Stonyhurst have plenty of opportunity to showcase their sporting prowess. There are four timetabled games sessions each week, two in the morning and two on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons when academic lessons finish at lunch time. Many students play at regional and national level, there are international tours that take Stonyhurst students all over the world, and the school has a strong track record in rugby, hockey, cricket and tennis.
The facilities here encourage a love for sport in all seasons. The indoor Stonyhurst Sports Centre has a 25 metre, six-lane swimming pool. There is also an all-weather pitch, multi-functional gym, fitness studio, a nine-hole golf course, outdoor tennis courts, indoor shooting range, and an indoor tennis dome (opened by Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman).
Students describe life at Stonyhurst as “belonging to a community” and this is held together in part by the extensive programme of more than 100 co-curricular activities. All student interests are catered for with plenty of music, drama, sport and academic clubs, a voluntary service programme, debating societies, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, and the Combined Cadet Force. Everyone attends Mass in St Peter’s Church on Sunday morning.
As a non-selective school, Stonyhurst delivers strong results across a wide breadth of subjects at GCSE, A Level and the IB.
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In 2021, students celebrated an average score of 37.8, with 71% of its students achieving 36 or more points. A third of the cohort achieved more than 40 points. There was a 100% pass rate for both the IB Diploma and Career-related Programmes.
In 2020, the average IB score was 36, compared with the worldwide average of 29.9, and there was a 100% pass rate. Over one third (38.5%) of students achieved 38 or more points, which is equivalent to 2A*s and 1A at A Level.
John Browne, Headmaster of Stonyhurst, said:
"The International Baccalaureate Programme at Stonyhurst continues to flourish. The Jesuit concept of having ‘one foot in the air’, ready for the next challenge, has perhaps never been more relevant, and the way that our young people have energised themselves during this challenging year has been inspirational.
"The global nature of some of the university destinations demonstrates the ambition of our Stonyhurst students. The IB philosophy promotes international-mindedness and a broad and challenging curriculum which has prepared these fine young people so well for the next stage of their educational journey."
IB students go on to Russell Group universities including Cambridge, Durham, University College, and Bristol, as well as institutions across Europe, the US and Canada.
In 2020, A Level results were equally strong; almost half of all entries (48.2%) were awarded A*- A and 72.5% were awarded A*-B.
Stonyhurst describes itself as a seven-day-a-week boarding school, offering a “busy weekend activity programme” to its large body of student boarders. Around 70% of students are boarders here, and there are options to board full time, weekly or on a flexible basis. While there is a full programme of activities and regular trips and visits that make the most of the local area and bring the whole school community together, the school also encourages students to “play, relax and board within small age-groups”.
At Stonyhurst, boarding houses are organised by year group. There are five horizontal boarding houses for boys and three boarding houses for girls. Every boarder in the Sixth Form has their own bedroom, which includes a study desk for independent study.
Stonyhurst is located just over two hours from London by train and within a one-hour drive of Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Manchester Airport. Based in a rural village called Hurst Green in the Ribble Valley country setting, Stonyhurst brings Hogwarts to Lancashire. With its beautiful historic buildings, beautiful St Peter’s Church, ancient libraries with floor to ceiling shelves of books, and magnificent grounds Stonyhurst has enough grandeur and history to make any student aspire for greatness.
Former student Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is believed to have based his description of Baskerville Hall in The Hound of the Baskervilles on Stonyhurst and the Ribble Valley was the inspiration for Tolkien’s Shire, so students find themselves in quite a magical setting.
While the campus has been updated, there’s nothing too modern from the outside – it simply would look out of place.
Around one third of students come from the school’s prep, St Mary's Hall. Entry into Stonyhurst College at 13+ and above is based upon interview (via SKYPE/Zoom if international), school reports, and an online entrance assessment. Applications from international students are accepted into all year groups other than Rhetoric (Year 13).
Annual tuition fees at Stonyhurst College are £35,850 for UK and EU boarders, and £37,350 for non-EU and IB boarders; fees for day students are £20,550 per year. Scholarships are available for academic excellence, art, music, drama & theatre and sport at 11+, 13+ and 16+.
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